Canada’s open government consultations

20 March 2012 | John Weigelt, National Technology Officer, Microsoft Canada

I’m writing today, because I finally got around to providing my input on the Canadian federal government’s Open Government Consultation – a huge initiative that Canada kicked off last March around open government. The consultation encouraged Canadian citizens to suggest what kinds of data the government should make public, and asked citizens for ideas on how the Canadian government can more effectively communicate with the public. The results from this consultation are expected to appear this month, which I’m eagerly awaiting!

If you haven’t taken the time to check it out, I encourage you to take a few minutes to visit Canada’s open gov website. You should also let your friends know, especially if you’re a Canadian citizen, since I’ve found that there are quite a few people in Canada who don’t know about the important consultations that their government is conducting. The 2010 consultations on the Digital Economy provide a great case in point. Almost all of the Canadian business leaders I spoke with at the time didn’t know about the consultations or felt that the consultations didn’t apply to them. The digital economy affects us all, though, and we should keep up with the latest activities that seek consultation to make sure our voices are heard.

The open government consultations recently broke ground when the Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) hosted a tweet chat on December 15 to gather feedback and ideas from constituents. Unfortunately, I couldn’t attend, but decided to find out what was said, what questions were asked, and how many people were engaged. While TBS published transcripts of the discussions in French and English in a sequential format, I tried to make it more usable. I eventually ended up with this spreadsheet version of the English discussion called Open Gov Q&A sorted.

Visualizing the Twitter stream in this format shows how successful it really was. The conversations were useful and productive, and I think we all need to consider the pace of the activities in the office at TBS. From the English stream, there were almost 150 unique discussion items. That’s over three discussion items every minute! Each item needs to be read, considered, and potentially answered in a very short time, but many responses were posted within minutes of the comment or question. The combined @SCT_Canada and @TBS_Canada posts were around one per minute (44 posts), and a quick look at the community shows predominantly Canadian Tweeters, with a couple of posts from the United States.

It’s really cool to see the government look to innovative approaches like tweet chats to interact with constituents. While things don’t always go as planned, we should applaud the risk-taking that is being done. With more engagement in open government consultations from citizens, these initiatives can be even more successful in the future!

Have a comment or opinion on this post? Let me know @Microsoft_Gov. Have a question for the author? Please e-mail us at ongovernment@microsoft.com.

John Weigelt
National Technology Officer, Microsoft Canada

Microsoft on Government Blog

About the Author

John Weigelt | National Technology Officer, Microsoft Canada

John drives Microsoft Canada’s strategic policy and technology efforts. He is the lead advocate for the use of technology by private and public sectors, economic development, innovation, environmental sustainability, accessibility, privacy, and security.